The 1970s in Italy were years of social and political commitment throughout the country. The decade opened with the proclamation on the law on divorce, in 1970, and ended with the law on abortion, in 1978. Both laws where hot topics of debate, followed by referendum votes that split the population of Italy. Worker’s strikes and terrorist activities dotted the 70s and everybody had a political point of view on almost any subject.
Italian feminist protests in 1976
Music of the 1970’s
The 70s were the golden years for "cantautori": singer-songwriters. The term doesn't merely refer to singers who wrote their own songs, but to artists who always put a social or political message in their lyrics. Bob Dylan and the early work of Bruce Springsteen would fill the bill, with Francesco Guccini and Fabrizio de Andrè the spiritual leaders of this movement. Other names to check out are the unforgettable Lucio Battisti, Lucio Dalla, Francesco De Gregori, and Franco Battiato. Lucio Battisti started playing romance songs in the 60s and reached his peak in the first part of the 1970s. However at that point, light romantic songs did not go well with the young Italians of the 1970s. At that point, young Italians where looking for singer-songwriters with more 'politicamente impegnati'. In the major cities young Italian girls where switching more and more toward the feminist movement and the hated the symbol of 'donna oggetto' refusing categorically (at least for the moment) Battisti’s beautiful romantic songs.
In any case you can't remove romance from life, particularly in Italy, and eventually Battisti returned to popularity in this and the following generations. I still consider his songs the ones with the most impact on Italian society in the last 40 years.
Lucio Battisti's Sun's Song
The political tensions of the time gave birth to the terrorist movements that troubled Italy in the 1970’s. Right and left wing extremists took arms to try to transform the Italian state according to their own visions. The "anni di piombo" - years of lead, left many dead and wounds that are still not yet healed.
Maybe as a reaction to this turmoil, in public Italians thought and spoke about very high and delicate matters. However in private, they enjoyed almost trivial activities.
Movies of the 1970’s
In the 70s the highest grossing movies produced in Italy were "commedie pecorecce", comedic sexy movies that lampooned some of the most common stereotypes about Italian society, a care free degeneration of the light comedies of the previous years.
Two kind of fringe movie goers emerged from the 70s. The cinema d'essai attracted art movie lovers who flocked to small, independent theatres that showed movies outside the greater distribution circuits. They watched mainly eastern and far eastern productions, and small independent movies coming from nearby France and aspired to the latest art movements.
The other fringe movie scene was the red light (luci rosse) movie goers. These were the aficionados of the porn theatres, hidden is some narrow alley of virtually every Italian town.
Both of these kinds of theatres are almost extinct, due to VHS, DVD and now Internet distribution of similar materials.
Italian Television of the 1970s
More and more families were getting a TV, which after the middle of the 70s also offered a Color TV option. The National public channels (RAI) and the emerging private channels started adding imported foreign TV shows to their broadcast schedule and formats. American soap operas and South American telenovelas made their debut along with English TV shows. The most famous TV show was an Italian production, Sandokan was a series of TV movies inspired by adventure books by Italian writer Emilio Salgari. Sandokan made Kabir Bedi, an unknown Indian actor, a superstar virtually overnight.
Italy of the 1980s
The 80s were a time of fun, excess, luxury and optimism. The 1980s topped the seemingly unlimited economical growth of Italy and marked the apparent transformation from an agricultural country to an industrial and service oriented economy. In those years Milan affirmed itself as the social and economical capital of Italy. Designers, artists and fashion gurus opened stores and galleries in the city. After a famous TV spot, the city becomes known as Milano da Bere, the Italian capital of the aperitif ritual.
The decade started with a tragedy, the mysterious incident known as Ustica Massacre: on 27 June, 1980 a civil airliner suffered an in-flight explosion while in route from Bologna, to Palermo and plunged into the sea off Sicily, near Ustica. At first it seemed an accident, but then various hypotheses began to surface. First the investigators thought it was a bomb on board, than it became more and more apparent that the plane was hit by a missile fired by a military fighter plane. To this day, no one knows the truth and many other mysteries have crossed paths with the Ustica incident.
World Cup Victory
Immediately after Ustica in 1982, Italy triumphed at the World Football (that's soccer for you Americans) Championship in Spain in 1982. After 1982, gradually the Italian youth are less and less into politics, compared to other values that start emerging in young Italians. With the terrorism movements almost defeated, a strong economic growth and the optimism spurred from the 82 championship victory, Italians embrace the pop era.
1980’s Music and Fashion
These are the years in which "Made in Italy" becomes a true brand and Italian products and lifestyle start to get more and more attention abroad. In return, Italy is more open than ever to foreign influxes. This is evident in music and television. Many singers and bands are influenced by the new musical movements hailing from England, Germany and the USA. Music fans are inspired in their dress code and behavior from their pop idols, like Madonna, Wham, Duran Duran. Many pop bands, both original and copycats of British and USA bands started to appear throughout Italy.
Alberto Camerini, an Italian pop singer from the 80s
Music and culture also gave rise to the "urban tribes" - groups of young people bonded over a clothing style or a musical preference. Paninari, dark, new romantics, metal heads and post punks are just a few of these tribes. Each one had its own rituals, meeting places and dress style.
The breakthroughs in technology and science, like the personal computers and personal video gaming systems, and an optimistic outlook on life were being felt in everyday life. The year 2000 was closing in and everybody wanted to live in the future. Even the traditional Saturday evening shows gained a science-fiction tint, that culminated in dance numbers inspired by the Star Wars movies, with glittering dancers wearing aluminum costumes.
In the 80s a phenomenon that made its first appearance by the end of the previous decade exploded with unforeseeable consequences: The Japan Invasion. While this may sound dramatic, in reality it is just the broadcasting of Japan-imported animated shows (anime) on Italian public and private TV channels. While this may seem insignificant, the nostalgia effect of the Japanese TV shows on those who were a few years old in the 80s had strong consequences. In late 2000s there are parties, dance contests, and nostalgia nights dedicated to these 1980s cartoons. Many kids that grew up with the Shogun Warriors in the 80s created an industry based on their youth heroes with publishing houses, record labels and clothing lines.
A compilation of 80s TV spots
If animation was dominated by Japanese products, mainstream TV was invaded by American shows. Happy Days, The A-Team. Automan, Super Car and other 80s glories followed the road paved in the 70s by Charlie's Angels and The Six Million Dollars Man. With all these shows and the liberalization of private owned networks, Italians started to spend more and more time watching TV. This is a trend that for some is the root cause of Italy’s contemporary disinterest towards other media and lack of critical analysis about current world's state. Many Italians tend to believe everything told by TV and seldom look for a second opinion or independent fact checking.
During the 80s, in part due to the influence of movies and TV spots, perceived glamorous jobs started to attract many young Italians. Managers, creative talent working in the advertising business, financial yuppies all saw their ranks grow. The fabulous 80s were fabulous in Italy too.
Political Tensions Reemerge
While Italians lived a fun and optimistic life on the surface, the political tensions never went away. Many governments failed as the guide of the country, unable to get the economy in check and causing a decreasing IGP and rise of inflation. Blinded by shiny lights and promises of a glorious future, Italians lost sight of what was happening under the surface of the country. If the 80s officially started with the victory in the World's Football Championship, the glittering years brutally ended with slaughter in 1992. The Mafia killed its two most dangerous adversaries, the judges Falcone and Borsellino, harshly reminding to everyone that it still was an evil force to be reckoned.
In that same year began the "Mani Pulite" (Clean Hands) judicial investigation. It uncovered a widespread web of political corruption that engulfed the major political forces of the time and their leaders, leading to their near extinction and causing the rise of new, but not necessarily better, political parties.
These two events changed the social and political panorama and abruptly wakened the Italians from the glittering dream of the 80s.
Historical Notes: Italy from 1970 to 1980
The communal protests, particularly the student movements had shaken Italy in 1969. This event led to the Fiat factory located in Turin being occupied. During the "Battle of Valle Guilia" in March 1968 clashes took place at La Sapienza University in Rome.
The late 1960-1970s was know as Opposti Estremismi and was later renamed as anni di piombo due to the shootings and bombings, a policeman named Antonia Annarumma was the first victim who was killed in Milan on12th November 1969 during a protest led by the left-wing.
Rome was hit by four bombs and the four monuments of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Vittorio Emanuele II, the Banca Nazionale dell' Agricoltural and Banca Commerciale. Later the bombing were known as Piazza Fontana bombing on December 12 1969 which left 16 people killed and 90 inured.
The 1970s and 1980s
17th May 1972 Luigi Calabresi a police officer was later awarded a gold medal of bravery for the Italian Republic, he was killed in Milan. After 16 years Leonardo Marino, Adriano Sofri, Giorgi Pietrostefani and Ovidio Bompressi were taken to custody in Milan, being accused for the assassination. This matter was highly controversial and after many convictions and acquittals, the participants of the assassination were guilty of their crime.
The Interior Minister Mariano Rumor was attending the ceremony held in the honor of Luigi Calabresi and during the ceremony a rebellion Gianfranco Bertoli attacked with a bomb and killed four people and 45 people injured.
In 1974 Edgardo Sogno revealed about his visit to the chief of the CIA station in Rome, he had visited there to inform the chief about the neo-fascist revolution. Edgardo Sogna asked the chief that what measures US government would take against this kind of revolution. In response to Sogno's question, the United States wrote that they will give any support in order to keep the communists away from the administration. In 2001 General Maletti had declared that he was not aware about his relations to CIA and had even not been told of the coup.
Vito Miceli, a general who was the chief of SIOS from 1969 and had also been SID's head from 1970 had been arrested in 1974 on the charges of conspiring against State. After his arrest, the secret services of the country had been reorganized. A law had been passed in 1977 in an attempt to gain their parliamentary and civilian control. SID had been divided in SISDE, CESIS and SISMI of the present day. These had role o coordination and were led by President of Council. The year of 1977 was mostly known for the various terrorist attacks.
Aldo Moro, the democrat had been killed in 1978 in the month of May by the Red Brigades. This had been a terrorist group which Mario Moretti had been leading then. Before the murder, he had been an important figure in the party and had been Prime Minister several times. He had also been trying to include their party in the majority of the parliament.
The PCI had been the largest party in west Europe at the time which was because of its orientation towards reformists. Another reason had been because of its independence from the country of Moscow. The party had also been very strong in the central parts of Italy. The party had managed the regions of Umbria, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany quite efficiently for years.
In the years that Italy had faced the terrorist attacks in he 70s and in 80s the majority of the parliament had been made up of the parties that had supported the constitution. The communists had not taken a part in the main government functions.
For the first time since 1945, in the 80s the two governments had been led by non-Christian premiers namely Bettino Craxi and Giovanni Spadolini. However, the main supporting factor for the government had been DC.
Towards the end of year of 1989, PCI had gradually increased the number of their votes. This had been made possible by Enrico Berlinguer's leadership. PSI was led by Craxi Bettino which had become critical towards the communists and Soviet. He had pushed the public in favor of Ronald Regan in his position of the missiles that were perishing in the country which had been opposed by the communists.
The party had moved themselves to moderate positions and the PCI's ranks had increased in the year. The party had surpassed DC in the elections in 1984 only two days post Berlinguer's death which might have drawn sympathy from the locals. Large crowds of locals had attended his funeral and it was the only time when the DC had not been the nation's largest party in the elections. The government also revised the Lateran pact in 1927 which had been with Vatican and had included the State religion as Roman Catholicism.
With the investigations of Mani Pulite, which started one year post the Soviet Union's collapse the country realized the extent to which corruption had been existing in the country and had included some the most important of the country's political parties. What followed after the investigation is known to everyone today as Second Republic.